Wednesday, December 7, 2016


Despite the hit to credibility that polling has taken in the past couple of months, the art form survives and pollsters are still phoning people and asking them random questions. One such enterprise is the Allstate|Atlantic Media Heartland Monitor Poll XXVII (the Roman numerals add a touch of gravitas, I suppose) which was last run on the 16th of November.

The Atlantic has posted an article on the poll, and this stood out for me: "Likewise, the share of adults who say [Donald Trump] will govern in a way 'that reflects bias against certain groups in society' is nearly as large as the percentage that says he 'will try to govern as the president of all Americans,' the poll found." What piqued my attention was the fact that one said "will" and the other said "will try." It struck me as an odd way to parse things, so I looked up the survey itself, and tracked down the question.

26. As you look forward to the next four years, which statement best reflects your view?

President-elect Government Style
Donald Trump will try to govern as the President of all Americans.
Donald Trump will govern in a way that reflects bias against certain groups in society.
There was a part of me that immediately wisecracked, "Do or do not - there is no try," but the difference in choices here is an interesting one. For starters, the two answers are not mutually exclusive - you could easily imagine someone believing that President-Elect Trump will try, and fail to govern as a President for all Americans and end up governing in a way that reflects biases against certain demographics.

Personally, I suspect that President-elect Trump won't turn out to be a President for all Americans, whether he wishes to or not (which is debatable), mainly because the people who voted for him likely don't sincerely want that outcome. America politics has become both tribal and moralistic, and the intersection of those two is often vindictiveness. Generally, what is required for an administration to server all Americans equally is its supporters being willing to hold it accountable for doing so, even if it means leaving some of the spoils of war on the table to shared with the vanquished. The past Bush and Obama administrations, however, haven't exactly seen the party in power being expected to share and share alike. And its unlikely that people who supported a Trump administration will be any less invested in seeing the other side get theirs.

And this may be part of the driving force behind posing the question in a way that gives President-elect Trump points for trying, but doesn't necessarily expect him to succeed. Trump supporters were willing to make excuses for him during the campaign, even when they were the ones on the receiving end of what one might term "bias against certain groups in society," on part of candidate Trump, his staff and his supporters, and it's unlikely they they'll be willing to raise their expectations of him once he's actually in office. By the same token, it's unlikely that many people who didn't support him will expect him to make a genuine effort, let alone manage to be even-handed. While Presidents Bush and Obama were often considered to be openly partisan, neither of them showed the sort of willingness to directly go after people who challenged them in the way that Trump has with Boeing, to name an example.

A house that's willfully divided against itself cannot be forcibly unified, and as Democrats and Republicans have come, more and more, to view the other side as intentionally un-American to the point of being evil, unity of purpose has become less and less plausible. Only serious external threats have shown any ability to quell the bickering between the sides, and while a Trump administration may find it worthwhile to pick a fight with someone that ends in a shooting war, it's unlikely that his political opponents will view that as a reason to set aside their differences with him and rally around the flag.

In the end, Trump is, regardless of his intent or the effort that he puts into it, going to be a President for everyone. There simple doesn't seem to be enough support for it at this point. And I would be unsurprised to find the both sides are already pointing the finger for the failure. Sometimes, low expectations are the result of simply not thinking someone capable. But sometimes, they're simply the natural result of understanding the world on lives in.

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